Tension grips Sibuyan amid mining protest
CITY OF CALAPAN—Residents of Sibuyan Island in Romblon province continued to barricade the port of a local mining firm on Thursday to stop its trucks from hauling nickel ore as antimining groups asked the national government to stop mineral extraction on the island.
Police securing the area clashed on Wednesday with the protesters who formed a barricade to block a truck from leaving the port of Altai Philippines Mining Corp. (APMC), according to Elizabeth Ibañez, coordinator of environmental group Sibuyanons Against Mining.
In a statement, Ibañez said the company’s truck tried to “force [its] way through the barricades” on Wednesday, prompting the protesters to stop it.
She said policemen in full protective gear arrived, resulting in a confrontation with the protesters who were questioning their presence in the area.
In a Viber message, Police Capt. Richard Obsid, information officer of the Romblon police, said policemen were sent to the port to maintain order.
Ibañez described the activities of APMC as “illegal” and must be “immediately investigated” by the municipal and provincial governments and all concerned agencies, alleging the company had no permits and documents for its mining activities.
Rodne Galicha, a resident of Sibuyan and executive director of the interfaith movement Living Laudato Si, said the national government “showed disrespect” to the local government and communities by allowing APMC to operate on the island.
“The [Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)] lacks a sense of urgency to protect one of our country’s last ecological frontiers,” Galicha said in a statement.
According to Ibañez, the protesters were demanding that the mining company show a barangay clearance, a municipal business permit, a foreshore lease contract from the DENR and a permit from the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) to construct a private port.
Sibuyan is a crescent-shaped island and the second largest in an archipelago that comprises Romblon. The island is divided into three municipalities: Cajidiocan, Magdiwang and San Fernando.
In June last year, the municipal councils of the three Sibuyan towns issued a joint resolution “strongly opposing metallic large-scale mining” on the island.
These towns appealed to President Marcos and the DENR to declare Sibuyan Island free of large-scale metallic mining. They also called on Environment Secretary Ma. Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga to immediately “review, halt, revoke and reject all mining agreements, operation and applications within the territorial jurisdiction” of Sibuyan.
But APMC, in a statement sent to the Inquirer on Monday, said its operation was covered by “pertinent permits and clearances” from the DENR, the PPA and the Bureau of Customs.
The company said its compliance with existing mining laws was “affirmed” by the San Fernando municipal government.
“APMC adheres to responsible mining practices that shall ensure environmental preservation and socioeconomic growth of the host community and nearby areas,” it said.
In a separate statement on Sunday, the municipal government of San Fernando said Mayor Nanette Tansingco and Vice Mayor Domingo Marin had met with officials of the regional DENR in Mimaropa (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan) and had confirmed that APMC had “complete documents” issued by the national government, including an ore transport permit from the regional Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) and a mineral ore export permit from the MGB’s central office.
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